Remembering Well, The Chelsea Hotel

by BILLY GRAY · March 3, 2010

The Chelsea Hotel: literary haunt, punk rock murder scene, subject of classic songs and perplexing Warhol improv marathons. And now, host to a group show opening tomorrow in Gallery Suite 1019, one of the Chelsea's legendary rooms.

For 30 years #1019 belonged to Alfred and Joan Russell. Alfred Russell was a fixture in Paris and New York's Abstract Expressionist scenes, appearing in seven Whitney painting annuals before abandoning the genre (which he denounced in a caustic 1953 essay) for a figurative style. He died in 2007, 28 years after his last exhibit despite continued productivity.

His wife Joan died in December 2008, after which the couple's apartment made a fitting transition into art gallery. "The Possibility of a Painting" opens tomorrow night with a reception in the Chelsea's hallowed halls. Here's the description:

"The Hotel Chelsea and 2|ONE|TWO|PROJECTS have created an immersive experience in one of the most exotic rooms of the hotel. The paintings of various artists will be hung salon style on the wall and creep up and over the ceiling. The audience will view the works seated or lounging on cushions. The idea is to show all the possibilities of painting and show this through a transition from representational through to abstract and minimalist paintings."

There's an urgency to the show, since The iconic building has been fighting to maintain its bohemian spirit ever since longtime manager Stanley Bard was replaced by a corporate management team. Shocker: rents rose, artists left.

Some say Nancy Spungen's ghost haunts the Chelsea. It's a good thing we have the Russell's spirit to even things out.